Glossary

Adjuvant chemotherapy – The administration of chemotherapy after surgery or radiation treatment for cancer.  This round of chemotherapy follows on the main treatment to help take care of any remaining malignant cells.

Adjuvant therapy – More general than adjuvant chemotherapy, adjuvant therapy refers to any treatment administered following the main treatment. This might be chemotherapy, but it also might be radiation or hormone therapy, or other treatments.

Alkylating Agents – Chemotherapy drugs that chemically link to cellular DNA and thereby prevent mitosis.  This stops growths in the body, including malignant tumors.

Anemia – A clinical condition when the patient has insufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen that the body demands.  As a result, the patient feels tired and may have other complications.  Common side effect of chemotherapy drugs.

Anthracyclines – Class of antibiotics derived from bacteria and used to treat cancer.  Used on a wide range of cancers.  More.

Antiemetic – Anti-nausea medicine used to stop vomiting and feeling sick-to-the-stomach, which are common side effects of chemotherapy medicines.

Antifolate –Class of chemotherapy medicines that stop mitosis by inhibiting the action of folic acid in the cellular metabolism.

ASCO – American Society of Clinical Oncology – professional society that is influential in setting norms for chemotherapy use.

Catheter – Tube inserted to the body.  Used to administer chemotherapy.

Chemobrain – Also called “chemo fog”. Attention span, thinking, and short-term memory problems during and after cancer treatment. Cancer patients who do not receive chemotherapy also report similar symptoms, so it is not clear that the chemotherapy agents are the cause.

Chemoprevention – Chemoprophylaxis – use of drugs to forestall or prevent disease.  Not used widely against cancer, although some have proposed programs to do so.

Combination chemotherapy – Administration of more than one drug to treat cancer.  Quite common.  Page on combination chemo.

Complete blood cell count (CBC) – Common diagnostic test showing the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a patient’s blood.

Complete remission – describes cancer in patient who has been treated but now has no symptoms and no trace of cancer in imaging or medical tests.

Consolidation chemotherapy – also called postremission therapy or  intensification therapy.  This is chemotherapy adminstered after the cancer has gone into remission.

Curative chemotherapy – Chemotherapy intended to cure or cause significant progress against the cancer, in contrast to adjuvant, neoadjuvant, or palliative chemotherapy.

Cytotoxic – adjective meaning kills cells.  Most chemotherapy agents are cytotoxic, which is why the side effects are so severe.

First-line chemotherapy – initial treatment for cancer when chemotherapy is intended to be the prime treatment.  As distinct from adjuvant chemotherapy (after the main treatment of surgery or radiation) and neo-adjuvant chemotherapy (which is intended to increase the efficacy of the main treatment of surgery or radiation).  Also called induction therapy.

Induction chemotherapy – Slow intravenous administration of chemotherapy medication.  Called for in some regimens to prevent too much of a spike in blood concentration of the drug.

Infusion – Slow intravenous administration of chemotherapy medication.  Called for in some regimens to prevent too much of a spike in blood concentration of the drug.

Intra-arterial – Administration of drug into a patient’s artery.  Much less common that intravenous injection.

Intracavitary – Administration of drug into a patient’s bodily cavity such as the abdomen.

Intralesional – Injecting the drug directly into the tumor

Intramuscular – Administration of drug into a patient’s muscle.  Sometimes used in some chemotherapy regimens.

Intrathecal – Administration of drug into a patient’s spinal fluid (cerebrospinal fluid)

Intravenous – Administration of fluids, including chemotherapy, into a patient’s vein.  Often called IV.  Most common method of administering chemotherapy.  More.

Maintenance chemotherapy – Low intensity course of chemotherapy given after main treatment course. If the cancer has disappeared, maintenance chemotherapy may be used to prevent recurrence. Other times the cancer is still present but the doctor wants to ease off the heavy chemotherapy for a time period, and he or she switches to a lower dose to avoid losing progress made durng the main therapy round.

Mitotic inhibitor – General term for drugs that inhibit mitosis by disrupting microtubules that form in the M-phase of the cell cycle.

Mucositis – Inflammation of mucous membranes

Mucous membranes are involved in absorption and secretion and line many tracts and structures of the body including the eyes, lungs, and digestive track from mouth to anus. Mouth sores, oral mucositis, and esophagitis are types of mucositis and common side effects of chemotherapy.

Myelosuppression – Decrease in bone marrow activity and production of white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes), and/or platelets (thrombocytes).

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy – The counterpart to adjuvant chemotherapy before the main cancer treatment.  The main treatment may be more chemotherapy or radiation or surgery.  For instance, a patient may be given neoadjuvant chemotherapy to shrink a tumor before surgery.  More.

Palliative chemotherapy – Palliative procedure in medicine are ones that are not intended to cure a disease or cause remission in a cancer so much as to make the patient more comfortable.

Port – A catheter device surgically inserted under the patient’s skin. Makes it easy to administer chemotherapy and may be used if the regimen is expected to involve many incidences of administration.  The exposed surface is typically 2.5 to 4 cm in diameter.

Progression-free survival – time treated patient experiences without cancer getting worse (by whatever measure is being used to measure worsening.)  A metric often used in trials of treatments.

QOD – Quality of life near death.  The quality of life in a patient’s final weeks.

QOL – Quality of life.  Somewhat amorphous but important measure of subjective experience of patient well-being from the patient perspective.  Increasingly used in evaluation of medical interventions.

Regimen – The entire course of the chemotherapy administration, including schedule, methods of administration, types and dosages of agents, order of agents in the case of combination chemotherapy, and any adjunct medicines given to the patient at the time.

Salvage Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy given to a patient after other treatments (including other chemo regimens) have been tried and failed.  There is no official definition for what counts as salvage chemotherapy, but researchers often use the term.  More.

Second-line chemotherapy – Chemotherapy regimen given when the first-line of treatment (chemo, radiation, and/or surgery) doesn’t work.

Stomatitis – Sores on the lining of the mouth. Oral inflammation and ulcers. Common side effect of chemotherapy.

Tachyphylaxis – Tendency of a drug’s effectiveness to decline over time as the body or tumor develops resistance to it.

Therapeutic index (TI) – Number pharmacologists use to estimate the “safety factor” in a drug. It is the ratio of the concentration (in the blood serum) at which a drug is to the concentration at which the drug is shows activity against the disease. Drugs with low Tis are more apt to result in dangerous overdoses. All other things being equal, the higher the TI, the safer the medicine is.

Topical – Method of administrating chemotherapy by placing it on the skin

Vinca Alkaloids – A class of chemotherapy agents derived from the Madagascar Periwinkle – genus Catharanthus.